Christine Hemp

Issue #
October 3, 2017

Jealous Waters

Not waving but drowning.

                              –Stevie Smith

                               Rage ran below the surface

                                        of that aging river. Red rock cliffs

                                              sheared the edge of the far

                                                     bank, but I sat on the other

                                                            side, grassy shade a perfect

                                                                   spot to frame the rapids, rocks,

                                                                          and cobalt sky. I unwrapped

                                                                             my sandwich, took a bite.

                                                                               Upstream two kayaks skirted

                                                                                   round an eddy, then skimmed

                                                                                    a stone’s throw from my picnic.

                                                                                      I thrust my hand into the air.

                                                                                       “Helllloooo!!” I hollered through

                                                                                         the din of riffles’ randy play.

                                                                                          The woman smiled and paddled

                                                                                           straight ahead. The man turned

                                                                                          his torso toward me, lifted

                                                                                          the blade above his head

                                                                                        in salutation. The water found

                                                                                        its chance: Rivers do not care

                                                                                       about our need for balance or air.

                                                                                    They hurry on, pull asunder

                                                                                   what does not float. “My husband!

                                                                                 My — husband!” the woman shouted

                                                                               when the empty vessel shot

                                                                            past her, heading where the current

                                                                           called. Those of us on shore

                                                                        leapt up, barely comprehending

                                                                       what we’d seen. People fanned

                                                                    out to find a rope. Another shed

                                                                   her clothes and dove dead in

                                                                 to the drift. Others warned not to let

                                                                the flailing man grab on. “He’ll take

                                                              you down!—” a woman pointed

                                                            at her half-nude boyfriend halfway

                                                         in the drink. What was I to do?

                                                      No seasoned swimmer, I

                                                 stood by while others saved

                                              the man I’d downed. When they

                                         finally hauled him (pale and choking)

                                      from the cold, he staggered up

                                   the bank, propped between

                               his wife and a younger man.

                            I could not look him in the eye.

                       Is ignorance (or innocence)

                   grounds for blame? I love

               the swell of marching bands,

             parades and trains. Herds

          of running horses, bands of geese.

       I wave at all of them.

  I ’d wave again.

There is no previous item
Go back to Top Menu
There is no next item
Go back to Top Menu